INCREASING YOUR METABOLISM: PT. 2
In today’s blog, we will explore four major hormones that affect our metabolism and seven lifestyle choices that can impact those hormones to work for or against us. If you want to increase your metabolism, healing these four hormones is key. You can help restore your hormones by making effective lifestyle changes.
FOUR MAJOR HORMONES THAT AFFECT YOUR METABOLISM:
INSULIN – “The sugar (and fat) regulator.” Insulin is produced by the pancreas, and determines whether we are storing or burning sugar and fat. Your body needs sugar (glucose) for energy. Insulin allows your body to either: use sugar for energy from the carbohydrates you eat, or to store glucose for future use. However, since sugar cannot get into most of your cells directly, insulin attaches to the cells to help absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Insulin is often described as a “key,” which unlocks the cell to allow sugar into the cell to be used for energy. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin. However, when you have an excess of sugar in your system, insulin actually stops responding, increasing the sugar levels in your body which causes you to store more fat. People with type 2 diabetes have a low or resistant response to insulin. The latest statistics are saying that 1 in 3 Americans are now insulin resistant or have a pre-diabetes condition.
LEPTIN – “The satisfied hormone.” Leptin is our satiety hormone produced by our body fat. It regulates how much food we eat, how much energy and fat we burn, and it’s the biggest player when it comes to your weight. As the general rule leptin acts as an appetite suppressor and helps to satisfy your hunger. The more fat you have, the more leptin you have. When the body is functioning properly, having more fat cells will produce more leptin. This normally triggers the hypothalamus to turn down the appetite, and to use the fat stores as energy. Logic would say that obese people would feel satisfied all the time and would not feel hungry due to their high levels of leptin. However, when your hormones are clogged and not working properly that is not the case. When a person is severely overweight they will have too much leptin in the blood, and now the body becomes leptin resistant – it never feels full. Although an overweight or obese person has a lot of leptin, their body acts like there is none. When the body is low on leptin, a person experiences intense hunger cravings and food consumption goes up.
Think of being resistant (with either leptin or insulin), as similar to when you are around someone who has diarrhea of the mouth. After being so bombarded with their words and non-stop talking about nothing, you tune them out. Nothing they say is getting in. Even when their intentions are good, it’s simply too much and you are overwhelmed. You get to the point of saying, “I’m not hearing you.” That’s exactly what they body does with excessive leptin and insulin.
“But when we feed our body low-quality foods, it becomes unable to effectively respond to these hormones. Without those hormonal “burn fat” signals, the metabolic processes that otherwise keeps us slim does not happen. Once our body is not effectively responding to hormones like leptin and insulin, we become insulin and leptin resistant and our body starts overproducing these hormones like leptin and insulin – causing a hormonal clog. Some very obese people have been shown to have up to twenty-five times more than a normal level of leptin circulating in their bodies. Chronically high levels of these hormones make our bodies think that an abnormally high level of body fat is normal … When we eat poorly, we raise our weight set-point … we cannot adjust our set-point unless we change the quality of our food and exercise. The higher the quality, the lower the weight set-point … Diet induced leptin resistance is fully reversible,” (Jonathan Bailor, The Calorie Myth).
GHRELIN – “The hunger hormone.” Ghrelin stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage. Having ghrelin in our system makes us feel hungry and causes us to increase our food intake. Ghrelin also stimulates the release of the growth hormone, which breaks down fat tissue and causes the build-up of muscle. Ghrelin also has protective effects on the cardiovascular system and plays a role in the control of insulin release.
CORTISOL – “The stress hormone”. Cortisol is known for its “fight-or-flight” response in the body to temporarily increase energy. In order to prepare the body for the fight-or-flight response, cortisol floods the body with glucose, supplying an immediate source of energy to the large muscles. When chronically elevated, cortisol can have disastrous effects on weight, the immune function, and greatly increases your risk of many chronic diseases. Elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels. Cortisol also prevents insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored so that glucose can be used immediately. A chief function of cortisol is to thwart the effect of insulin, rendering the cells insulin resistant. Cortisol is great for emergencies, however when it is chronically elevated it has drastic effects on the body.
The good news is that you can affect your hormones through some lifestyle choices.
7 DEADLY S’s FOR YOUR METABOLISM:
1. SUGAR – Sugar is one of the biggest things that will make your body Insulin and leptin resistant. It also increases your cortisol and ghrelin making you hungrier and more stressed out. Stress makes the body hold onto fat. Sugar is a huge factor that affects ALL four hormones related to your metabolism.
Solution: Limit it or eliminate it whenever possible! Especially white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
2. STARCH – Starchy foods are high on the glycemic / sugar index and have a similar effect as sugar on your hormones. Foods such as potatoes, corn, pasta, white rice, and white flour are examples of starchy foods that score high on the glycemic index.
Solution: Eat plenty of non-starchy veggies. Think of your greens and colorful veggies that are loaded with nutrients. Eat 6–10 serving of nutrient dense veggies daily.
3. STRESS – In times of stress (emotional, physical, environmental, relational), our inflammation hormones such as cortisol can go through the roof! The body is amazing and will do whatever it can to protect itself. When you are inundated with stress, the body says – “We’re in a state of emergency! We need to hold on to the weight!” It is true that being stressed out can make you hold onto fat.
Solution: Lighten up on the tasks and activities and leave some room in your schedule. Ditch or limit your time with toxic, energy draining people in favour of healthy, positive people. If you are going through a major transition or stressful season of life, make your self-care a priority. Deep breathing and meditation can improve your parasympathetic nervous system and can help you better handle stress.
4. STARVATION – What does our body want more of when it thinks we are starving? Stored energy. What is a great source of stored energy? Fat. The body wants to hold onto fat when it thinks it is starving! What does it want to get rid of? The thing that is burning all the energy – muscle. When our body thinks it’s starving, it goes into survival mode and tries to get rid of muscle (the big calorie burner), and hold onto your fat, further altering your metabolism. It is much easier for your body to slow your metabolism down than it is to burn fat.
In a case study, Jonathan Bailor writes: “Thanks to starvation’s side effects, the metabolism of the 220 pound subjects slowed down dramatically. In fact, they needed 5% fewer calories per day than the non-starved 138-pound people, even though they had 82 more pounds of mass to move. That is a scary side effect.”
Eating less makes the body slow down and burn muscle, which leads to long-term fat gain – not fat loss.
In another case study at the University of Minnesota, subjects reduce their intake to 1600 calories per day. “Subjects’ metabolism responded by slowing down a whopping 40%. Their strength fell by 28%, their endurance fell by 79%, and their rates of depression rose by 36%.
Starvation burns calorie-hungry muscle while slowing down the metabolism.
Solution: Don’t starve yourself. Avoid these insane diets that suggest you do. Eat high quality foods and eat enough!
5. SLEEP DEFICIENCY – Get enough of it! Lack of sleep has been shown to boost the hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease the fullness hormone leptin. Sleep deprivation was associated with an increase in ghrelin levels, appetite, and hunger compared with when people slept 8-10 hours a night.
Solution: Prioritize getting enough sleep!
6. SATURATED AND TRANS FATS – Heavily processed, boxed, and fried foods are a triple threat against your hormones. They can make you more leptin and insulin resistant, while increasing your hunger and your inflammation hormones.
Solution: Stay away from, or limit all of the above. Get your fats from mono-saturated sources such as olive oil and avocados.
7. SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE – Once again, a lot of sitting and inactivity can cause the body to become insulin and leptin resistant, while increasing your hunger and inflammation hormones.
Solution: Exercise fights inflammation. Living a more active lifestyle, doing some cardio every day and weight training two or more times a week will send your hormones into a positive direction and help get your metabolism on track.